There are many young embroidery artists and every one of them seems to bring a completely new vision of embroidery. They bring a rich and fascinating variety to this art which is no longer forgotten at all! Let me introduce to you an artist determined to put embroidery at the rank of Major Arts.
Interview by Claire de Pourtalès
Ekaterina Igorevna for the Brodart I project © Photo Alexandra Zakharova
Being a Cossack from Russia, I feel like embroidery is in my DNA. It has an important place in our culture. One of the most vivid memories of my childhood is a portrait of my mother embroidered in cross stitch by my grandmother. When I was 10, my sister started teaching me embroidery. I spent hours in front of my first piece while waiting for my sister to come home from school. It has never been a hobby for me, but a medicine that fills the void, a thread that connects.
Born in the South, I absorbed its kaleidoscope of thrilling colors, which stand out in my series of abstractions. For almost 20 years I have kept the cotton skein in my hands, keeping all the creations in my inner circle. In 2018 during my studies at the Faculty of Art History at the Sorbonne, I realized that embroidery was ignored by institutions as a major art: no course was devoted to it.
This prompted me to launch my career as a professional artist in order to bring embroidery to the contemporary art scene. In 2019 I managed to bring one of my works (Seven Shades of Red) into the permanent collection of the Fontenoy-le-Château Embroidery Museum, as well as into the private collections of public figures, such as Oleg Sentsov, Ukrainian filmmaker, honorary citizen of Paris or even the Mayor of Paris.
Twelve shades of blue, 42 x 35 cm © Ekaterina Igorevna
What inspires me …
The main source of inspiration for my works are the questions; concerning my emotions, my pain, my joy, my happiness, my love … above all, love. The deep impulse activates the scansion of the repetitive gesture with a mystical and bewitching rhythm. An inner necessity pushes me to create, the one that is at the origin of every work of art according to Vassily Kandinsky. Each painting is a piece of the puzzle of my life, a possible answer. I still have so many questions unanswered…
Stitched abstraction, 220 x 150 cm © Photo Katya Salloum
My technique and what I want to say
The technique I have chosen echoes my artistic approach. I embroider in cross stitch. The wisest and most structured stitch crowns the meaning of creation: filling the void, structuring thoughts in order to understand and hear one’s inner voice. The importance of being heard is highlighted in my flagship series Brodèmes (poem or word embroidered in cross stitch in Morse code), where I use Morse code as a symbol of the importance of listening. Samuel Morse created this code so that people could get along, keep in touch. Since 1832, the year of the creation of this system which is at the origin of all digital communications, there have been many conversations. However, very often we do not really hear the one in front of us. It saddens me ; you have to learn to listen and hear. While embroidering I try to hear myself, myself above all, so that I am ready to listen to others afterwards.
Brodème on the poem “Alicante” by Jacques Prévert, 50 x 40 cm © Photo Katya Salloum
Brodème on the poem “Le Lion et La Colombe” (The lion and the dove) by Alyre, 50 x 40 cm © Photo Katya Salloum
The choice of embroidery and the creative process
I like to work my Brodemes in a protean series that is enigmatic; at first glance it is an abstract work. The moment you find the key (the Morse code) the order is established. I begin the process of creating the embroideries by choosing the colors of the threads, which associate with the chosen poem or word. For Alicante by Jacques Prévert, for example, I chose orange, for I loved you… by Alexandre Pouchkine the red, for The Lion and The Dove, a poem written by a contemporary poet named Alyre, I honored the blue, as for Une Charogne by Charles Baudelaire. Then I encrypt the words with the code. I have a lot of affection for my embroidery depicting poems. I love poetry, it has one thing in common with embroidery: the gestures of stitching and piercing create a rhythm like the rhythm of verses in poetry. In fact, brodème is an acronym for “embroidery” and “poem”, because at the beginning it was only poems in Morse code.
Implementing a realistic portrait like Monroe’s requires more time and attention to detail. In order to convey all the nuances of colors I use a software that helps me create grids to guide me.
The process of abstractions is really peculiar. By embroidering kilometers of pure colored threads I feel the total reconciliation at work. It thrills me.
Often I embroider in silence, sometimes, listening to music or audio books. I remember that last December to finish my two polyptychs of 4 meters in height (yes, I like large formats, this proves the ambition of embroidery) for an exhibition, I embroidered 12 hours a day. .. I admit, that I was able to listen to a lot of fascinating books!
Projects and why
When I first exhibited at the ART3F International Contemporary Art Fair in Paris, I was a little blown away by the reaction of people: most visitors were not ready to see embroidery at an Art Fair ! For them it is a minor art, a craft made by grannies.
However, these are indeed works of art, major art. I had to explain the distinction between the two sides of embroidery: that of craftsmanship which is represented by utilitarian objects and another, embodied by works which have no use. They exist only to amaze and inspire us.
I understood that exhibiting embroidered works is not enough for embroidery to be reconciled with contemporary art, we have to go further.
I decided to generate two projects called Brodart I and Brodart II, which aim to remove prejudices towards embroidery and embroiderer artists. In the first we show the portraits of the artists by emphasizing their modernity and the second highlights the contemporary embroiderers through the works inspired by the first project.
Only eyes can talk, 60 x 80 cm. This work is now in the collections of Oleg Sentsov © Ekaterina Igorevna
@salome_talaboulma for the Brodart I project © Photo Alexandra Zakharova
@les_broderies_de_lilith for the Brodart I project © Photo Alexandra Zakharova
How, the reaction
For the portraits I work with a photographer; I look for artists on Instagram, I suggest they participate. More often than not, they are happy to be a part of it. As soon as we have enough portraits, I plan to organize an exhibition in Paris.
While working on these projects, I discovered wonders! I can tell you that embroidery artists these days are amazing! During the last session, we took the portraits of three artists. All have a different profession but that does not prevent them from creating: the first is an actress playing in a theater in Paris, the second is a horsewoman in the gendarmerie, passionate about books and the third, the most amazing character: the bearded man, father of three children … and who embroiders! Every time when I show these portraits, people tell me that it completely changes their perception of this art. And I’m so glad to hear it!
@le_barbu_qui_brode for the Brodart I project © Photo Alexandra Zakharova
Monroe, 76 x 71 cm © Ekaterina Igorevna
We, embroidery artists, still have a long way to go, but I’m sure we’ll get there, and one day the Grand Palais will have an exhibition devoted only to embroidered works of art. I believe it!
Brodème on “I loved you…” by Alexandre Pouchkine, 50 x 40 cm © Photo Katya Salloum
The content of this site is free and is not damaged by un-welcomed publicity. I do this work with love and passion but it requires a lot of time. I would like to continue to offer a wider market to our artists, to show how embroidery is a wonderful art. But I do need a little bit of help. If you feel like it, you can participate with a little donation to help me continue. I will be so grateful! Thank you! Claire